A divided student senate voted on Feb. 7 to endorse the implementation of increased prices for student parking, expected to start in fall.
The senate’s decision came with a 5-4 vote and will now go to the Coast Community College District’s board of trustees for endorsement and approval in March.
The proposed increase will raise the cost of daily parking permits from $3 to $5, and will change the cost of fall and spring semester parking passes from $30 to $40. Additionally, summer semester permits will change from $15 to $20.
Chief of Campus Safety Jim Rudy presented the need for the increase at the meeting, saying the increase in parking fees will stabilize Campus Safety’s annual budget, which is currently running a deficit, and expand its office hours and staff, which have already seen cuts.
According to Rudy, the increase is a necessity with the addition of campus housing in the fall.
Rudy also said that the fee increase will enable the college to hire more parking enforcement staff and help fund the virtual parking permit and enforcement system NuPark, expected to be implemented in the fall.
Campus Safety administrative assistant Bai Nguyen said there are several reasons for the deficit in the department. The primary source of income is parking permits and meters, Nguyen said.
Nguyen said that while salaries and benefits have increased exponentially, the amount of meters has been reduced campuswide. Additionally, according to Nguyen, cost of living in Orange County has increased without an increase in the cost of semester parking permits since 2008.
Nguyen added that enrollment is decreasing at Orange Coast College and nationwide which means less parking permits being sold. In addition to the enrollment issues, a technical problem with the MyCoast portal has been misallocating funds to the wrong campuses.
Other than students, Rudy said the college is looking to implement a parking fee for visitors to community events and non-OCC sporting events, who have until now been able to park for free.
Vice President of Administrative Services Rich Pagel said that the Campus Safety department’s deficit is around $445,000 for the last fiscal year and if parking fees don’t increase soon, the department is projecting a deficit of over $888,000 by June.
He added that OCC has been financing that deficit through the school’s general fund but the general fund for OCC is in its own deficit of over $3 million.
Student Government of Orange Coast College president Raymond Tu attended the presentation by Campus Safety but wasn’t present during the vote due to a prior commitment.
“I believe that we made a decision that could have been more properly researched,” Tu said. “I definitely would have asked [Rudy and Nguyen] to come back later to give us more information in regards to expenditures and how they compare to other campuses in the area, or whether or not we use more in terms of resources.”
Another member of the body, student senator Michael Naccara, voted against the endorsement. According to Naccara, other colleges don’t fund campus security through parking fees alone and sees the deficit problem as more complicated.
“If we’re looking at this realistically, if we’re creating an $800,000 gap every year, it [the parking fee increase] seems like a Band-Aid to a much bigger problem,” Naccara said.
In trying to cut costs, the Campus Safety department has already cut back on office hours and have hired more student workers over hourly employees, but those options aren’t enough, according to Pagel.
“I would not be coming to the students if I had another solution,” Pagel said.